Tuesday 21 November 2006 7.00pm-8.30pm Alchemy: the occult beginnings of science Dr Philip Ball , Dr Peter Forshaw , Prof William Newman

Long derided as the business of medieval dupes and charlatans, alchemy is now emerging as a significant and fertile precursor to early modern science. Alchemy is just one aspect of an intellectual tradition that, while embracing much that was mystical and arguably superstitious, also included elements of the rational and mechanistic worldviews we now associate with modern science. This tradition had at its core a belief in so-called natural magic, according to which the world is permeated by hidden forces that can be manipulated by those who know how.

This evening will introduce you to three leading figures who drew on alchemy and natural magic during the formative era of modern science. The Swiss physician Paracelsus (1493-1541) helped to unite alchemy with biology and medicine, creating a chemical description of matter. John Dee (1527-1608) was the sometime adviser of Elizabeth I and perhaps the most renowned natural magician of the Elizabethan age. And Isaac Newton (1642-1727) remains one of the most perplexing figures in the history of science, who founded modern physics while devoting much of his energy to alchemy and Biblical prophecy. You’ll even see some practical demonstrations of the alchemical experiments performed by Newton.

Venue: The Royal College of Surgeons of England, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE

Tickets cost £8/£5 Ri Members, RCS Fellows/Members and concessions. To book call the Royal Institution on 020 7409 2992 or go to www.rigb.org